Friday, April 30, 2010

50 Followers Baking Blogfest

I was at the Dead Bunny Club yesterday, talking with my critique group and Sharon Axline reminded me of a cooking blogfest. I remembered reading about the Baking Blogfest on Charity Bradford's blog when she hit fifty followers, but I had no intention of entering it. I don't cook. I defrost. But Sharon was kind enough to enter the Body Language Blogfest with me last week on such short notice and I decided to return the favor. Also, I like Charity's blog. She doesn't think this blogfest sounds as exciting as a first kiss, fight, pg love or murder blogfest. She's right. It sounds way more scary to me. Here are the rules:

Write a scene where you MC bakes something, anything, good, bad, yummy, burned, anything. Have fun with it, and post it on your blog on May 1st. Bake in space, for a first date, as a cave man/woman, I don't care. Find a way to incorporate a cooking scene into your wip.

So, I've started the second book in my nautical fiction series by writing this scene. If I include this scene, it will probably be somewhere toward the end. And I don't know a lot about cooking, but I don't think my MC is baking. I hope that doesn't disqualify me. So, here is this week's blogfest. Hop on over to Charity's blog to see who else entered.

Baking Blogfest

The log clonked in the flames and orange sparks danced into the cool night air. I wrapped my cloak tighter and poked at the sizzling wood with a stick. A twig snapped and little rivers of eerie sensation flowed down my spine. The sound came from the other side of the clearing, just beyond the trees. With the sharpened stick raised like a cutlass, I melted into the thicket behind me and waited for a snarling coyote or a vicious marauder to appear.

A minute dragged by with only the pop and spit of the campfire. I stared at the other side of the clearing through the drifting smoke. The darkness made me jumpy. Maybe the memory of the Captain Treihard’s orders just before he stomped off with the flintlock made me nervous. My fingers closed over the sheath of my dirk and rode up to the smooth pearl handle. Without the flintlock, how would I fight off a mountain lion or a bear?

I crept back to the fire. If the bilge-drinking, wharf rat captain thought I’d become submissive by leaving me in the middle of nowhere without the proper weapons, he could think again. If I ended up dead because of a wolf or a lion, I’d kill him.

“It is your turn to cook supper tonight. Do it,” he had ordered. He’d tossed down an armful of weeds and stocked off into the evening shadows. At least an hour, maybe two, had passed without any sign of the preening princock. My stomach grumbled.

The weeds appeared to be wilting. A closer look revealed the yellow flowers of the dandelions looked fine, but the leaves and stocks sagged. The milkweed didn’t look very good either. My toe nudged the pack he’d left by the fire. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to get out the pan. That wouldn’t be like giving in, it would just be smart. Somewhere in the distance a little spring gurgled toward the river, but I’d be a fool to try to find my way to it in the dark. I pulled out the heavy, cast iron skillet, set it down, and sat on a squatty rock, willing the pan fill itself with water.

How hard could it be to cook? I could do it. And it would show my mother’s cook that I wasn’t a “dangerous accident waiting to happen.” I glanced around the clearing and up into the trees. Certainly I wouldn’t set fire to anything this time. But I still had no intention of trying to find the stream. Snakes liked streams and so did wild animals.

I moved the pan to the edge of the fire and tossed in the weeds. Some hung over the edge and began to roast. Roasted dandelion and milkweed sounded better than boiled. I jiggled the pan a little, smiling. Cooking wasn’t so hard. And maybe I’d eat it all and when the good captain came back—if he ever came back—there’d be nothing left for him and wouldn’t he be sorry.

Another twig snapped. It definitely came from the trees at the far side of the clearing. My breathing slowed and my hand slid my dirk out and gripped the handle. Another snap, this time closer. I straightened away from the fire with my dirk in one hand and the sharp stick in the other. Running wouldn’t help. A wild animal could run faster. Whatever crunched toward me no longer bothered with stealth.

The captain stepped into the clearing, the flintlock in his belt and a dead rabbit dangling from a rope. His eyes glittered in the firelight.

I dropped the stick and spread my hand over my chest, sucking in a couple of breaths. Relief converted to anger. I slipped the dirk back into the sheath, folded my arms, and glared. “So, you decided to come back."

He raised an eyebrow and sent me a cocky smile, holding up the rabbit. “I didn’t leave you. I was hunting.”

I snorted. “Well, it took you long enough.”

His gaze drifted to the fire and his smile broadened into a grin. “And I see you decided to cook after all.”

My shoulders slumped. Now he’d think he won and there’d be no peace. He’d continue to order me around like we were still on the ship. His chuckle set my teeth grinding.

“I told you it was easy,” he said. His eyes focused on the fire and his grin disappeared.

My gaze followed his to the pan just as the weeds burst into flame.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Body Language Blogfest

Well, I did it again. I signed up for another blogfest. This one was easier than the last one. At least I think it was. Harley D. Palmer over at Labotomy of a Writer (click on this to see the other entries) was talking with Ashelynn and came up with the idea for a blogfest for a scene where there is conversation, but without any dialog at all...whatsoever. Just body language. Okay, maybe it was hard because my characters really do like to talk. I put boxing tape over their mouths. (Just saying.)

So here is my entry. Just over 800 words. Sorry. Then trek on over to Lobotomy of a Writer to link to the other entries.

Scanned from History of Dance, by Mary Clarke and Clement Crisp


Raul leaned against the post, his crisp, white shirt open at the neck and the sleeves rolled to his elbows. The black trousers hugged his narrow hips and extended down long legs to end precisely over polished, leather boots with just the slightest heel. His head swiveled from couple to couple, watching us fumble through our steps, showing no favoritism. He didn’t smile. He never smiled.

The percussion of the hot, Latin beat vibrated as my father spun me out in a triple turn, and Raul whirled by me--once, twice, three times. I cut to a dipping halt with perfect balance, toe pointed in a pose I’d practiced hundreds of times in front of my roommate’s full-length mirror. This was the last chance for his gaze to focus on me and recognize my potential. My father, sweet though he was, missed his cue, forgot the lead, stepped across instead of back, providing no support to recover from the attitudinizing position. My eyes flew to the confused glance of my father, begging him to save me as my balance shifted. His hand let go. My toe continued outward and gravity sucked me down. The last week, the last lesson, the last song and it would end with me in an undignified heap of floaty black skirt and glittery silver shoes.

A firm, strong hand closed around my wrist. My eyes crawled up the muscular arm, across the starched white stretched across broad shoulders, and slowly moved to the sizzling black stare of Raul. I gulped. He extended his other hand in a graceful, sweeping arc above his head as though my encounter with the floor were planned. As the next stanza thrummed, he pulled me up like I weighed nothing more than steam rising above sunny, wet cobblestone. His gaze focused on mine and he snapped me against him, our bodies molding together from ankle to chest. Shivers danced up my spine and his lips hovered over mine. Our hearts hastened to the music and our breath mingled. His left arm lifted my right, while he pressed me forward with his other hand into a slow, four-beat underarm turn. Again he snapped me against his length, bending me back, his sultry stare locked on mine. I licked dry lips. We held like that a beat too long and his eyes narrowed. One corner of his mouth lifted just a fraction and sent my pulse soaring. He spun me out in a half turn and brought my back against him, our arms crossed over my chest. His lips nuzzled my hair just below my ear and goosebumps quick-stepped down my arms.

My father sat on a chair at the perimeter of the dance floor, bent over to untie his leather-soled shoes. I blew out a breath, glad his attention focused elsewhere. On the last, long note of the song, Raul swung me away, turned me in his arms and dropped to one knee, arching me over it until the ends of my hair swept the creaky floor. His solid muscles taut against me, one arm supporting my back, his dark gaze simmering on mine while he slid the outside edge of his hand in a slow, desultory line from the base of my neck to my navel.

My breathing slowed. My lips parted. Only a tiny rim of brown surrounded the black center of his eyes and I felt myself drawn into the black hole. Heat travelled from my toes to boil over my face. With a soft, deep growl he tilted me back to my feet. My eyes travelled to the rest of the intermediate class lining the perimeter of the polished wooden floor, untying shoe bags, or chatting with others. The advanced class filed onto the floor, smiling, laughing, pairing up in a circle for the beginning of class. The fiery heat still burned my cheeks but I forced eyes up to Raul. My index finger pointed at the dance floor and I cast him a tentative smile. He dipped his head in a lengthy bow and when he raised it again his gaze lingered, but he said nothing. I waited several seconds, hoping he’d ask me to join him--the advanced class was by invitation only—but his lips compressed into a line and his gaze sought out my father.

I stepped back and tried to keep the disappointment from my face. This was it. My eighth class. My father had agreed to partner me for only eight weeks of intermediate classes. Without Raul’s invitation, my lessons stopped here. My father finished tying his shoes and straightened, catching Raul’s gaze. Raul tilted his jaw and raised his eyebrows. My father nodded, extending his hand out, palm out, in silent approval.

My heart soared, but I remained still, afraid I’d embarrass myself if I’d read that exchange incorrectly. Raul nodded, sauntering to the center of the dance floor before he cut his eyes back to me. My heart thudded, but still I waited. He gaze swung back to me and he stretched out his hand, palm up, and smiled.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Photo by Nina Rochette

Spring is here. It is beautiful. Well, except in my yard.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lessons to Learn

Photo by David Margrave

It is embarrassing to say this, but sometimes I have to suffer through lessons more than once before I learn.

Back in the days just after I'd given up gardening, I moved my computer table out to the family room so I could waste a lot of time staring out the sliding glass doors onto my deck instead of writing. The squirrels would chirp and fling themselves from branch to branch and once in a while I'd catch a glimpse of a Pileated Woodpecker pounding a Douglas fir. Being a Towny, I didn't realize that woodpecker was telling me the tree was dying. By now the raccoons had moved on to some other poor sap's house and only the squirrels, my cat and the Stellar's Jays played on the wooden slats outside the glass.

So I sat in blissful ignorance, thinking natural habitat was probably better than a lovely garden anyway, when I heard something climb the two stairs to the deck. My eyes darted up to the ugliest dog I'd ever seen. It's tail end faced me and the mangy cinnamon color of the dreadlocks did not hide the size of the beast. Slightly larger than a Great Dane but more rounded and furry, he nosed around looking for handouts. Or maybe for my cat.

Remembering the raccoons showed no fear and the deer charged me, I stood very slowly and eased myself to the door. I carefully lowered the lock and was just about to open the door only enough to yell at the dog to scram, when he turned slightly and I saw his face.

Photo by Mila Zinkova

It was not a dog face. Having seen Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom on Sunday nights, I recognized this little puppy as a bear. I froze, my hand on the handle, and stared. On my deck was a bear. It took several seconds for that to sink in. It wasn't as big as a grizzly, but that didn't make me feel all that relieved. It was still a bear. A brownish bear. Outside. On my deck. A bear.

He foraged around looking for cat food, I was sure. He could probably smell remnants of it between the slats. He waddled back and forth, checking every inch of wood, sniffing the air, and glanced my way. My breathing stopped. Although he was brown, I didn't think he was a Brown bear because they didn't hang out in the northwest. Maybe he was a brown American Black bear. They weren't as vicious as the Grizzly or the Brown bear.

But still, I didn't move.

After a minute or two, he ambled over to the edge and began to lower himself to the ground, not bothering with the steps on the other side. I don't know what made me do it, but I slid the glass open a crack and said, "Get out of here."

He jumped as if he'd been shot and leaped off, disappearing along the side of the house toward the front.

I closed and locked the door, feeling smug, until I remembered the garbage can at the side of the house near the front. It was crammed full of all sorts of tasty morsels, enough to have him invite all his little bear friends for a picnic. If he found it, I'd never be rid of him.

I sprinted across the room, flung open the door to the garage, and flew past my car, flailing my arms and screaming like a chimp. The big door hung open and I screeched to a stop in my driveway just in time to hear the bear crashing up through the woods.

Yes, I know. It was not a wise thing to do. I know that NOW, but even then, even after the bear, the deer and the raccoons, I still had more lessons to learn.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Excuse Me

Last night I attended the First Friday Art Walk in downtown Vancouver (USA). I began at the Angst Gallery at 1015 Main Street. A violinist played and fresh strawberries, sparkling water and sour dough bread with hummus enticed a crowd to linger over a juried art collection. The jurors were students of the Vancouver School of Arts and Academics, so the collection was varied and interesting. The artists were not necessarily students, although some students' pieces did win a place in the show.

Carol Doane, one of my critique group members and a fabulous writer, stood outside the Active Qu3st office and together we walked to several other art galleries. In one gallery, a gentleman played the guitar and a table struggled to hold platters filled with cheese bread, cinnamon pizza bread, tarts, cookies and brownies. On an opposite wall several paintings of ducks hung. Since last weekend I spent nearly four hours at the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge, these paintings caught my attention. I recognised the mallard in one painting, but couldn't identify the subject of the next one.

"Carol, what kind of duck is that?" I asked. It was stunning with all its colors and striping and polka dots and plumage.

She studied the painting. "I don't know."

A woman leafing through a rack of prints for sale looked up at the painting. "That is a wood duck," she stated.

"Ah," I said. "That is the one I really wanted to see last weekend, but didn't. Others said they saw them, but I didn't. Thank you."

Carol and I strolled a little further and began to discuss another painting. The woman marched up to us. "Excuse me," she began, her face tinged pink, "I've been known to answer questions even if I don't know the answer. I don't know for sure that is a wood duck. I just thought I'd better tell you that."

What kind of courage did it take for that woman to follow us down the aisle just to admit she may not have been as knowledgeable as she sounded? Both Carol and I chuckled and the woman went back to thumbing through the plastic covered prints.

We moved on to more paintings and I felt a tap on my shoulder. "Excuse me." The woman was back, clutching a print of the same type of duck in the painting. "But I was right." She held the back of the print up so I could clearly see the title, "Wood Duck."

Photo by BS Thurner Hof

The first Friday of next month I need to go back to the Art Walk. The people attending these events are my type of people.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Deadly Velvet Weapons

It happened again last night. This time they took a different, more menacing tactic. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t dare. My finger snaked over to the dashboard and pushed the automatic door locks. It was twilight when I left critique group, when all the vampires, zombies, goblins and rancorous looters slither from their dens to torment their victims. It sent shivers up my spine to see the vicious beasts roaming free instead of being locked in a cage where they belong. But I have learned to be circumspect when dealing with them. It wasn’t always so.

As the tires ground to a shuddering halt on the steepest portion of the gravel road to my house, two of them boldly blocked my way, daring me, taunting me. This is the same portion of the road where my car nearly slid off the edge into the creek a year ago. Somehow they found out the road scares me. The animals!

I used to be against hunting, having grown up thinking of Bambi. But I understand it. In the old westerns there’d be some cougar hunt, or a wolf hunt after ranchers lost half their cattle herds to a four-legged fiend. There have been whole movies devoted to the defeat of marauding lions. Even birds have been featured in horror films (and rightly so). So why aren’t the treacherous deer ever exposed for the callous beasts they are?

As I watched them amble up the middle of the road, tails flipping me off, my mind went back to the time before I gave up the idea of gardening. The deer had wiped out hundreds of dollars worth of living, breathing, innocent plants and shrubs. I purchased a few miserly plants they would not eat and spaced them out along the circular driveway. Dragging two, black, fifty-foot hoses, attached end to end, I held my thumb over the spout. It was early evening and the hundred foot fir trees cast long shadows over the acre of land next to mine. At the fence separating the two properties, water sprinkled onto the purple blossoms of the butterfly bush and the pink heather as I waved the water back and forth. My eyes caught movement in the field and I brought my head up and stared. Right there, in the middle of the acre, a young buck, still in velvet, chomped on some tall, green grasses.

I saw red.

I waved both arms, water spraying into the air, and shouted, “Get out of here, you vicious thief. You despicable bandit.”

The buck jumped a foot, turned wide, dark eyes on me and began to run. He rushed to the fence, spun on his hind legs, rushed to the other side, darted out into the center and back along the edge until he ended at the far corner, still trembling. Trapped, he turned toward me, began a series of loud snorting hisses, pawed the ground, lowered his head, and charged.

My breathing accelerated to freight train speed as the animal flew across the field with his velvet antlers aimed at my gut. I remember thinking I may have made a mistake in shouting at the beast. Somewhere “you can’t outrun a wild animal” shot through my brain. My feet grew roots and I clutched the hose, water spewing over my legs. He slid to a snorting stop at the rail fence, four feet and a couple of 2 x 6 boards separating us.

I didn’t move.

He did. He hissed out his fear, turned and ran back to the far corner. He spun around, lowered his head and began the second charge. The snorting filled the air. I dropped the hose, but still couldn’t move. Once again a cloud of dirt rose as his hooves dug into the ground a foot from the wooden boards.

I stayed deathly still and began to coo to him in a voice reserved for dealing with violently deranged people...or cats. It was very low and smooth, like a 900 operator. “Oh, what a pretty, pretty boy. You are so lovely. You are such a pwecious widdle baby.”

He glared at me, his breath steaming from his nostrils and listened to the slightly “sing-song” cadence of my voice. His breathing slowed and the snorting hisses stopped. The whites around the dark eyes disappeared and his shoulders relaxed. He stood there until the compliments began to repeat themselves and he turned around. He trotted over to the opening in the fence and disappeared into the woods.

My thoughts returned to the present. These deer showed no fear, no urgency to disappear into the trees. They knew I’d have a hard time starting up the steep dirt path from a stop. Every few feet they’d stop and turn their heads back to sneer into the beams of the headlamps before flipping me off again. When they reached the top of the hill, I gave the car gas, let out the clutch, kicked up gravel until my tires grabbed the dirt and fishtailed forward. They each took a side of the road and as I inched between them and beyond, I heard their sinister laugh.